“I don’t know if many people could handle what he did and still be as adjusted and comfortable as he is,” Thatcher Kamin says of Ronnie Fields.
“Every day he’s asked the same question, ‘Hey, whatever happened to you?’ His life hadn’t ended at 18.”
Kamin tries to answer everyone’s questions about former Farragut Academy basketball wunderkind Fields in his new online documentary, “Bounce Back: The Ronnie Fields Story,” which debuts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 11, at Park Community Church, 1001 N. Crosby, with Fields in attendance.
Entirely Chicago-produced and self-funded with a financial boost from a Kickstarter campaign, “Bounce Back’s” public screening coincides its availability at www.RonnieFieldsBounceBack.com.
“I came up through the digital generation,” Kamin says. “I believe in the power of social media, to allow ourselves to distribute it digitally, reach a much larger audience, a much more engaged audience.
Fields tells a compelling story
The project began when Kamin, a LaGrange Park native who runs Taste Media Group production company, ran into Fields while working out at his gym four years ago.
Like many local basketball fans, Kamin had remembered Fields’ sensational mid-1990s career at Farragut, teaming with future NBA superstar Kevin Garnett.
Fields seemed NBA-bound. However, a broken neck suffered in a 1996 auto accident, academic ineligibility after he committed to DePaul University and a misdemeanor charge of sexual abuse to which Fields pleaded guilty put him on a different path.
Now 36, Fields ended up playing pro basketball all over the world and played minor-league basketball in Chicago and Rockford. Now living in Westmont, Fields will be an assistant basketball coach this winter at Fenwick Academy in Oak Park.
Kamin hit it off with Fields immediately and his story so fascinating, that Kamin decided to produce a full-fledged documentary, starting in 2010, teaming with director-editor Ryan Mayers.
Kickstarter helped relieve tight funding
Money and staffing was tight throughout the production. “Because it’s independent and Thatcher and I were funding it ourselves, we tried to do as much as we could on our own,” Mayers says. “We had five, six people at the most working on it,” including Kamin and Mayers.
All interviews were completed by last summer. Then Kamin and Mayers faced a huge hurdle: acquiring vintage action footage of Fields from an era prior to cellphone cameras. They would have to pay licensing fees to news outlets, the NBA and the Illinois High School Association.
A Kickstarter campaign raised $15,000 which covered the licensing. Mayers and an assistant editor then were able to cut the final product in five weeks.
Fields is appreciative of working with local producers who had institutional memory and could tell his complete story, instead of a big outside company like ESPN coming in cold.
“Thatcher and the people who followed me through high school, it was easier for them because they were here,” he says. “It was better from the point to be comfortable sitting down with them and talking.”
“We attacked every issue, from my court case, my accident, the DePaul situation. I was able to explain everything that transpired because I lived it.”
George Castle is a Chicago-based sportswriter, author and sports historian.